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Essay Writing Tips
A few times, at least, in your life you will most likely find yourself with the task of writing an essay - as a high school students who has to write English composition assignment, a college student who has to write an essay on a given topic, an officer who has to compose a report or a web author who has to provide information for his website. The tips provided here will help you to be prepared.
An essay is a piece of writing that discusses, describes or analyzes one topic. It may be short or long. The type of essay Secondary or High School students are asked to write is short essay.
Last Updated - 1st December 2005
The type college students often have to write as assignment or in partial fulfillment of their program is usually a long essay.
Types Of Essay
There are many types of essays, namely:
- Argumentative Essay
- Cause And Effect Essay
- Classification Essay
- Comparison Essay
- Critical Essay
- Deductive Essay
- Descriptive Essay
- Definition Essay
- Discussion Essay
- Exploratory Essay
- Expository Essay
- Informal Essay
- Literature Essay
- Narrative Essay
- Personal Essay
- Persuasive Essay
- Research Essay
- Response Essay
- Scholarship Essay
Space will not permit the discussion of all these types of essay in details in this article. Only the most common four will be.
Argumentative Essay - An argumentative essay is one in which the writer expresses his opinion about certain points on which there are, or could be, differing views. It attempts to persuade the reader to the writer's point of view. The following is part of an argumentative writing in support of capital punishment:
It is quite popular these days to accuse those of being barbarians (or relics of savagery) who take the position that there are times when it is justifiable to demand that someone forfeit his life for crimes done..... The purpose of God in punishment is not primarily reformation or prevention. To hear some people talk you would think it is, because they emphasize that punishment is not deterrent-therefore we should throw it out. That's entirely beside the point. If someone steals all the hub caps on my car, he ought to be punished for it; but not in order that nobody will steal your hub caps. He should be punished because he took mine! Any deterrent aspect is purely secondary, purely a bi-product - an extra thrown in. Some people say there is inequity in application; if you're rich and can get the best lawyers, you can get off! Again, that may be true; but it is still beside the point. If it is true, then that situation should be rectified and every necessary step should be taken so that a man -rich or poor, learned or ignorant- gets a fair trial. But even this has nothing to do with the basic question. Sometimes the innocent have been executed, you say. Again, it is still beside the point. Care should be taken so that if there is not reasonable and full assurance that the man is guilty, by no means should the punishment be administered. It should be beyond all doubt. We do not advocate careless or promiscuous use of the death penalty. Some may ask, What about a mans opportunity to repent? By all means let us give a man ample time to set his house in order and get right with his God. But if a man wont repent with the prospects of eternity staring him in the face, hes not going to repent with 50 years ahead of him in prison. Bruce W. Dunn, What About Capital Punishment by, Grace Worship Hour, Illinois 61614
Please notice that in an argumentative essay you do not have to completely prove your point. What you only have to do is satisfy reasonable readers that your argument or position has merit; that your points are more cogent than your opponents, that your own argument is somehow more accurate and complete than competing arguments.
Descriptive Essay - In a descriptive essay, the writer describes something an object, a scene, a process, a persons appearance or character, a state of mind or feeling, what something is or how something happens. Here are two examples:
The red-room was a spare chamber, very seldom slept in: I might say never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion. A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle in the center, the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour, with a blush of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs, were of darkly-polished old mahogany. Out of these deep surrounding shades rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane. Scarcely less prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the bed, also white, with a footstool before it, and looking, as I thought, like a pale throne.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, Page 7. The General strides in, pins two medals for outstanding gallantry to the chest of one of the colonels combat doctors. Then he strides off again to his helicopter, and spreads out a polythene-covered map to explain our afternoons trip. The General has a big, real American face, reminiscent of every movie general you have seen. He comes from Texas, and is 48 Nicholas Tomalin, The General Goes Zapping Charlie Cong, The Times, June 5, 1966.
Discussion Essay - Discussion Essay presents facts in detail for examination or consideration. This is a common type of essay, since we all hold discussions virtually every time. Consequently, discussion essay covers a wide range of topics. The following is a discussion of the Europes high-tech struggle, a good example of discussion essay:
The signs of trouble are everywhere. In Britain, 9 out of 10 shoppers looking for videotape recorders buy Japanese. In France, 8 out of 10 personal computers sold have American labels, and companies bought most of their semiconductors from firms based overseas. In less than a decade, the United States and Japan have come to dominate the multibillion-dollar high-technology field, often leaving European know-how years behind. The widening gap threatens an estimated 2 million jobs in Western Europe - and by the end of the century, it could cost European industry the ability to compete in world markets. The Europeans are acutely aware of the problem. Our hopes for the future are centered on technology, says Jean-Pierre Chevenement, Frances minister of research and industry. Governments and private industry are backing those hopes with billions of dollars on research and development in an effort to catch up with the Americans and the Japanese. But its an uphill fight, and the Europeans will have to do far more than they are now if they hope to regain their competitive edge. Fortunately, they are still in the race. Even now they are giving their overseas rivals a run for their money in several key high-tech fields. Europes Airbus, for example, competes with Americans Boeing Co. in the commercial-airline market. Italian robots developed at Fiat are used by automakers around the world, including Americas Chrysler. The French-pioneered Ariane rocket may eventually take lucrative satellite-launching business away from the U.S. space shuttle. Britains Harrier jet and West Germanys Leopard tank are state-of-the-art leaders. But all that represents only a small segment of the huge high-tech markets. Europes High-Tech Struggle Newsweek, March 28, 1983
Narrative Essay - The narrative essay tells a story. Generally the narrative essay is conversational in style, and tells of a personal experience. Narrative essays are told from a defined point of view, often the writers and rely on personal experience. The narrative essay makes a point and that point is often defined in the opening sentence, but can also be found as the last sentence in the opening paragraph. The following is the first three paragraphs of an essay under the title, The Scramble For Africa:
We have, most of us, heard about the infamous Congress of Berlin at which, in 1884, under the presidency of the German Chancellor Prince von Bismarck, the European imperialist powers proceeded to divide Africa between them. It was called the scramble for Africa, today it would have been called simply the carve up of the continent. Germany held the scales principally between Britain and France. It was in Bismarcks interest to arouse jealousy and covetousness between these two powers to prevent them from getting together to turn against the Germans in Europe. But other powers were interested Portugal and Italy and Spain, as well as Belgium, more rapacious than ever since the ruthless exploitation of the Congo by its avaricious and cruel ruler King Leopold. The Congress was probably the nadir of power politics and was characterised by the utmost cynicism and callousness as the lives and homelands of millions of Africans were bartered like so many cattle a vast game of check counter-check and bargaining in human misery. Richard McMillan, Make Yourself A Master of History, School of Journalism and TV, England, Page 26
Writing The Essay
Get a topic. If the essay is an assignment, you dont need to bother about getting a topic, since you have been given one. If you dont already have a topic, then you need to get one. You cant write until you know clearly what you are to write about.
- One rule you must never forget is that you must only write about what you know and are interested in. When you have decided on a topic, you are ready to move on to the next step.
- Collect Materials for your essay If you have plenty of material, then you can ignore this paragraph. If, however, you do not possess enough materials, you need to get all you need. If you are in an examination room, then there is nothing you can do than to put on your thinking cap and jot down all the points that come to your mind. If you are not in an examination room, then you are free to do some research. Dig out facts from books, journals and newspapers.
- Your best bet is the Internet. But you must beware of plagiarism. Dont copy anybodys work and use it as if it is yours. Apart from the legal problem plagiarism may push you into, it will land you in the mud of shame. Nothing disgraces an author more than the revelation of the fact that some of his works are not really his, but stolen from someone else.
- Make an outline - The purpose of an outline is to put your ideas about the topic on paper, in a moderately organized format. Dont worry; there is no rule that you must adhere strictly to your outline while writing the essay. The structure you create here may still change before the essay is complete.
- Arrange your material.- Each point should be in its proper place. Your outline may be in form of numbered points, a map, or a tree diagram.
- Write the introduction.- You must interest your reader with a good beginning. For the introduction, write the thesis statement and give some background information. The thesis statement tells the reader what the essay will be about, and what point you, the writer, will be making. Consider the opening paragraph of the example given under the topic Narrative Essay, as an example.
- Develop each supporting paragraph and make sure to follow the correct paragraph format. Each main idea that you wrote down in your diagram or outline will become one of the body paragraphs. If you had four or five main ideas, you will have four or five body paragraphs.
- Write clear and simple sentences to express your meaning. Write paragraphs that are clear and concise. Make the writing flow smoothly.
- Bridge gaps with good transitions.
- Focus on the main idea of your essay. Do not be sidetracked. By this, we mean that you should not yield to the temptation to discuss in details some trivial points. Your readers will not thank you for bothering them with irrelevant points and trivial facts.
- Think clearly as you go on. Good written communication presupposes clear thinking. If you are not thinking clearly at any stage during the writing, your composition will fail to achieve the desired result. You must have a clear concept of what you want to say before you start writing, otherwise once you have formulated your phrases, your meaning will be obscure.
- Write a good conclusion. - End your essay with a conclusion that teaches. The conclusion should sum up your points or provide a final perspective on your topic.
- Revise - When you finish writing your essay, read through it. Put yourself in the place of the reader. Pay particular attention to the following questions and make sure they are answered to your satisfaction:
- Is the meaning clear? Do all you can to avoid ambiguity (sentences or expressions which can carry a meaning not intended by the writer). Cases of ambiguity usually occur when the writer is not clear in his own mind, or when in haste he uses an expression that on second thoughts he would improve.
- Is the essay understandable? Use familiar words your targeted readers know. Avoid heavy and Latinate words.
- Avoid long, involved sentences.
- Is it interesting to read?
- Dont be slovenly in writing.
- Beware of clichés that make your work dull.
- Use concrete words. Does it follow? When you say or imply that something follows from something else, does it? Dog is different from goat. Goat is an animal. Then dog is different from an animal. It does not follow that because the one differs from the other in certain respects, they differ in every respect. You must beware of confusing an essential with an unessential difference.
- Check for spelling, grammar and references.
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